I was not sure what to expect when I was preparing myself to leave for my two month long volunteer experience with YCI in Zanzibar, Tanzania. I told myself to just be open to anything. Whatever they needed to me to do I would do and whatever the local customs were, I would adapt. I knew I was going to have a great time but I never could have imagined how much I would soon begin to love the people of Zanzibar, my home stay family, my fellow volunteers, the local volunteers, YCI staff and our students.
Here I am with Michael, or Mike-oh as we called him, in our first of two offices in Zanzibar, planning our English and Computer Skills classes.
Because of the election, we spent the first two weeks creating lesson plans, homework, handouts and workbooks. When the time came to start teaching we were nervous but after the first class our anxiety had lifted. The class of 18-24 year olds, were eager to learn and excited to talk with us about the class.
We quickly learned that the students in the English classes knew many English words, they just needed somewhere to practice sentence structure and conversational skills. Our new challenge was to find ways to keep the class engaged and excited about speaking English so we began creating games and assigning skits. The students in the computer classes caught on quick and during the computer practicals the students were able to apply their new skills at an internet café.
In Mahonda, with our English class. This was one of our favorite places to teach as the students were all friends with each other and were not shy in participating.
The last day of one of our eight classes. Here we are with our computer class and the local volunteers Steve and Evra. We were so sad to leave this group!
The local volunteers are students from Zanzibar who helped teach and translate during each class. They are some of the most positive, friendly and hard working individuals I have ever met. They quickly became our good friends and they showed us around there hometowns. They often came out to dinner with us and we hung out on the beach on the weekends. It was great to have close friends around your own age who were from the area. We had so much fun spending time with them and improving our Swahili.
At the beach with our local volunteer friends and students. They even brought their younger siblings. One of our favorite days!
We were also invited to several local events for World Aids Day, International Volunteer Day and International Day for People with Disabilities. The events ranged from formal ceremonies with international speakers to local celebrations with funny skits and games. It was great to participate in local Tanzanian events that focused on important issues.
This is a picture taken at and World Aids Day Event. The day focused on HIV/ Aids education but there was still time for fun and games throughout the day.
Shaib and Donald were the YCI staff located in Zanzibar. We spent much time with them going over class preparation and planning for events. They were a pleasure to work with. They always made sure we were safe and well informed about our assigned projects but made the work enjoyable. We were able to spend time with them outside of work as well enjoying the food at local restaurants. Donald even hosted a Christmas party for us and we all participated in Secret Santa.
Shaib and his adorable son at Donald’s Christmas Party.
One of the best parts of my YCI experience was my host family. Coming from a fashion background I was delighted to learn my Zanzibar Mother was an artist and we bonded over the arts as she showed me her paintings and henna art and we flipped through my Vogue magazines. Mwana was an amazing person to know and live with. She fed us amazing food, showed us around Zanzibar markets and introduced us to many friends. Her hospitality was heart breaking and she is one of the things I miss most about my time in Zanzibar.
We also lived with four children. Two being aged two and six often had many of their neighbor friends over to play. A huge part of our day after work was spent playing with the local children. Not being able to speak each other’s language made the situation quite interesting as we started using charades to teach each other words and they taught us Swahili games. Playing with these bright and beautiful children are one of my fondest memories of Zanzibar.
Here I am with my Zanzibar family and some of the local children. There was always a large group of them and they loved posing for pictures!
I thought landing an internship at Vogue in NYC was going to be one of the best experiences in my lifetime but that was quickly pushed to second place by my YCI volunteer experience in Zanzibar, Tanzania. People keep say to me “I would love to go to Africa but ….. You’re so lucky!” I encourage you all to look into YCI’s programs and find a way to make it happen. It will all fall into place if you put your mind to it and you will undoubtedly have one of the greatest times and memories of your life.
-Kimberely Dyer, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2010
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